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Christmas Classics Around the World!


While this Jell-O food crime tried to be a thing in the 60s, other real Christmas and holiday dishes have withstood the test of time to claim their place in the hearts of all that enjoy the tradition of preparing and eating them for the holidays. Let's take a look at 15 of those dishes today on the Vegan Pauper!

 

Christmas Cake


We'll start with the global Christmas icon, the Christmas Cake. You may be thinking, "Fruit cake!" Well, you're right. It's a type of fruit cake that contains flour, eggs, sugar, spices, candied cherries, dried fruit, and the all-important brandy.


Usually, this cake is about two months old when you're eating it. Why? Well, the brandy, of course. The cake is made in advance so that brandy can be added to the cake every couple of weeks to be adequately sauced for the holidays. To finish off this boozy treat, it is topped with marzipan icing.

 

Kutia


This little dish comes to us courtesy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This is the first dish traditionally served during the Sviata Vercheria (a vegetarian meal consisting of twelve dishes in honor of the twelve apostles).


Made from cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, and honey; this dish is a nutrition bomb. Ukrainian feasts often focus on the nutritional aspects of the food being served, and Kutia is no exception.


Be warned, should you find yourself at a Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast, everyone is expected to take at least a spoonful of this sweet dish.

 

Janssons Frestelse


Ah, the familiarity of potatoes, heavy cream, onions, and breadcrumbs really hit home with my American sensibilities. However, the Swedes add sprats to this dish (an oily fish akin to sardines) for a little touch of their own.


This dish is part of the larger julbord, or Yule Table, and is enjoyed with boiled potatoes, cheeses, roasted veggies, and baked ham as part of a traditional Swedish holiday feast.

 

Pasteles


Whew! Now, this is a Christmas dish I can get behind. It's also one that can easily be made plant-based!


Pasteles are a classic Puerto Rican Christmas dish. However, if you're going to attempt to make them, you better work on your patience in the kitchen. This treat's outer shell is made from a special sort of masa made with yautia (a root that cooks a bit like a potato), spices (this one has some hot sauce in the masa), and grated green bananas.


The filling is traditionally made with slow-roasted pork in adobo. However, it can also be done with tempeh for a tasty treat. The patience comes in because the dough has to sit for at least three hours before adding the filling, wrapping it in leaves, and boiling them in water.


The traditional Puerto Rican table is set with pasteles alongside rice, fish, pigeon, peas, and of course, more hot sauce!

 

Eggnog


USA! USA! USA! One might think that this is a global holiday drink, but it is mainly consumed right here in the US of A. Our neighbors to the North also enjoy some eggnog this time of year, and we can't blame them!


Eggnog is made from milk, cream, whipped egg white (protein!), egg yolks, sugar, and (depending on your philosophical bent) rum, bourbon, or brandy.

 

Hangikjöt


Mutton, not something we eat a lot of on this side of the pond. Cows being the hot commodity over here. Know what? I think that's a shame. Back when I was consuming more animal protein, lamb chops were one of my faves.


Anyhow, this Icelandic dish literally means "hung meat." That's because it's hung for weeks in a smoking shed to develop a profoundly smoky and salty flavor leading up to Christmas.


The meat is then brought in, sliced thin, and served with sauced potatoes, green beans, and pickled red cabbage. YUM!

 

Bánh Tét

I'm a sucker for all Asian food, and this Vietnamese dish is no exception. Traditionally consumed for Tết (Vietnamese New Year), this rice cake will make sure your new year starts on the right foot!

Sticky rice, pork, mung beans, green onions, fish sauce, and some good old salt and pepper are all rolled up in banana leaves. Simply done, simply seasoned, and simply delicious.


Not only are these consumed wholesale in Vietnam, but they are also placed in front of family altars as a tribute to ancestors to watch over the family in the coming year.

 

Latkes


There is just something right about fried potatoes. Hanukkah latkes are a staple of most Jewish and Israeli plates.


While the toppings can be as elaborate as you like, the base of a latke is simply potato, onion, eggs, and matzo. Fry them in oil, and you have that fried tater goodness.


The oil used to fry latkes represents the oil that lit the menorah for eight whole days when there was only enough oil for one day.

 

Mince Pie


Have I mentioned how much I love pie on this blog? At least a couple of times, I'm sure.


Anyhow, English mince pies are king this time of year (tee hee, monarchy pun). Also known as mincemeat pie, the modern iteration of these treats is meatless. Today these sweets are pastry dough, distilled spirits, vegetable shortening, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and dried fruits.


Historically mince pies were manger-shaped!

 

Yebeg Wot


Let's take it to Ethiopia for something akin to their national dish (Doro Wat), yebeg wot is a lamb stew served during the holiday season.


The stew is made with lamb, onions, tomatoes, kibbeh, garlic, berbere spice mix, and simmer it for hours. Yebeg is traditionally served alongside injera (the flatbread pictured above).

 

Shuba


This beautiful dish comes to us from Russia. While we throw down our Christmas feast on December 25th, the Russians follow the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 7th.


Oddly enough, this dish is more commonly called "herring under a fur coat." That's probably because this eye candy is made with pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayo, and grated carrots, beets, onions, and potatoes. Top it off with some fresh dill sprigs, and you've got dinner.


As with the Ukrainian Kutia above, the Russians celebrate the nutritional value of their foods. This one is chockful of potassium, antioxidants, A & B vitamins, and PROTEIN!

 

Spiced Hot Chocolate


So, you think you make a mean mug of hot cocoa? Grab a napkin, homie. Peru is about to serve you.


This "thicc" mug of hot chocolate is made with cocoa, condensed milk, cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.


As a matter of fact, this stuff is so popular that it has its own event called la Chocolatadas. This event is commemorated by people gathering and serving spiced hot chocolate with a Peruvian cake called panetón.

 

Butter Tarts


Our Canadian friends eat much the same as we do on the State's side. However, that doesn't mean they don't have a few traditional recipes up their sleeves!


Enter the butter tart. These desserts are made of butter, sugar, maple syrup (of course), eggs, and can be topped off with nuts or raisins.


If you even catch a hint of these being close to you, grab some coffee, and treat yoself!

 

Bûche de Noël


The French. Masters of the culinary arts, and especially fancy chocolate desserts! Bûche de Noël, or the Yule log, is made with heavy cream, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla extract, and plenty of sugar of all types.


Of course, in France, it's not done until it is appropriately decorated. Cranberries, powdered sugar, candied ginger, chocolate shavings, and greenery can always spruce up the dish.


This dessert commemorates a tradition of cutting and burning a special log known as the Yule log. While it is based in paganism, it was introduced into the Christian holiday hundreds of years ago.

 

Bibingka


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and this is a holiday breakfast tradition in the Philippines.


These little happiness bombs consist of sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are often added as a garnish.


In the Philippines, there is a nine-day series of Catholic masses leading up to Christmas. It's common for churches to have food stations set up outside of the church so that the worshippers can grab some bibingka, coffee, and tea.

 

Cheesy Poe Ham Rollups


Now, for a little look into my family's Christmas tradition! The Cheesy Poe Ham Rollups. No one really knows why this is a tradition, but as far back as any of us can remember, these have been showing up every Christmas.


Personally, no matter which way I'm eating, these things are nearly all consumed by yours truly. Literally two ingredients (deli ham and Kraft Old English cheese spread), these things taste like Christmas to me!


That's how tradition works. So, from the Vegan Pauper, have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Whatever it is that you celebrate, worship, or spend time with family and friends, please do so with some of your own traditions! If you don't have any traditions, 2020 is an excellent year to start one!

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